Set Your Sites on Security


Kevin Nannis has owned and operated Security Products Unlimited LLC for nearly seven years. The company specializes in self-storage security. Based in Phoenix, with offices in California, Missouri and Canada, Security Products Unlimited offers one-stop shopping for keypads, door alarms, cameras, gates, gate operators and office alarms. Inside Self-Storage recently asked Mr. Nannis to tap into his 15 years experience in the security industry to offer advice on what it takes to keep a storage facility safe and sound.

Whats your advice about security systems for self-storage first-timers?

Security is an integral part of the industry. When selecting a system, owners should consider crime rates for the area, competition (now and in the future), and the type of self-storage product you are trying to sell. Along with deterring crime, owners should be looking to protect their investment and use the system as a powerful marketing tool.

The best advice is to find a reputable security company specializing in self-storage to advise you and put a system together to suit your specific needs. Its also important to get the security company involved as early as possible to ensure coordination with other trades on the project. I have yet to meet an owner who didnt mind digging up a new driveway to put a forgotten conduit in the ground.

Whats the least expensive way to secure a facility?

At the minimum, I recommend facilities have an automatic gate with keypad access for entering and exiting. Gates vary in size and style; there are slide, swing and vertical lift gates, the latter of which are used where space is limited. A gate enables owners and managers to control who has access to the facility and track who came and went at specific times and dates. This is the most fundamental part of a security system. I also suggest using disk locks over padlocks to deter the common thief looking for an easy target. Its much more difficult to cut a disk lock with basic bolt cutters.

What security feature are must haves for small sites?

Facility size shouldnt necessarily determine the extent of a system. The owners investment and customers stored items are equally as important at a smaller facility. One money-saving option for smaller sites is to run them as satellite facilities. This way you avoid the expense of building an office or apartment, leaving room for more rentable space and eliminating the expense of an onsite manager. Remote software runs from a central office, tenants pay at the keypad, web-based software lets you rent units online, and kiosk technology provides most renting capabilities of an onsite manager, including selling individual locks for units.

For sites in neighborhoods where crime is prevalent, what features should be included?

The first detail should be gate-access control, described above. Management software interfaces with the access-control equipment and provides many features for renting units, locking out delinquent tenants, adding late fees, credit card payments, tenant photos and a host of other capabilities. Management software is also a great tool for preventing employee theft, including tracking inventory and requiring certain access levels to issue discounts to customers.

Individual door alarms are the next step. Unit alarms are turned off when tenants enter their codes at the gate and re-armed when they code out. These are available hard-wired as well as wireless. Wireless technology is a great benefit for existing facilities since access to inside of units is not necessary. The price gap between the two systems is continually decreasing. The reliability of both systems lies in the planning and, most important, the quality of the installation.

Lighting is also very important, inside and out, especially eliminating dark corners for criminals to hide. Lighting should also complement the video surveillance system at your facility, offering better quality and possibility of capturing details of any incidents. Video surveillance should be very prevalent at high-risk facilities, particularly at the main entry/exit gate, any secondary or emergency gate, the entire perimeter of the facility and office. The camera (usually best is a day/night model) should be visible to individuals at the facility to act as a deterrent, but not easily accessible to vandalism.

Typical recording of the video system is done by a digital video recorder (DVR). These units allow constant or motion-activated recordings. You dont need videotapes; activity is automatically recorded and stored to the hard drive, easily retrieved and saved to a disk. This also allows remote viewing from a home or corporate office. Up to 48 cameras can be recorded on a single DVR.

Perimeter-beam systems are another option for high-risk sites. These are infrared beams installed around the facilitys perimeter and turned on manually or automatically at certain times. If the beam is crossed, it sets off an alarm and can also be tied to a monitoring station to notify an offsite manager or local authorities.

Intercom systems give customers an added sense of security and convenience, knowing with the push of a button they can contact a manager. Having music throughout the interior hallways of your facility also provides a sense of comfort to customers.

Finally, owners and managers should be flaunting the security systemshowcasing it in all marketing efforts and using monitors in the office for customers to see. Security features are an amazing marketing tool to increase leases and unit prices.

When is the time to start thinking about security features for a new construction project?

Owners should consider security a vital aspect of development and begin planning for it early. Although the exact layout of the system cant be determined until the facility is designed, your security company should be involved as soon as possible to advise you on present as well as future security needs if you expand.

I dont believe in cutting corners when it comes to a security system, although there are many ways to save on your system. Research prices and features and try not to pay for more capabilities than will ever be used.

Budgets should be created with security in mind. Systems are available in a wide price range, and phasing is another alternative. An owner may choose to install door alarms on certain buildings or use fewer cameras in particular areas to begin with. Once he begins generating revenue to offset the costs, he can begin increasing the security system as time goes on.

What kind of maintenance is required of security devices?

Maintenance is fairly minimal if equipment is installed properly. Keeping camera lenses and housing windows clean, lubricating the gate chain if applicable, and keeping the path of the gate clear and free of debris are a few of the most common upkeep ideas. Checking reports to ensure devices are communicating properly and replacing batteries in wireless equipment when needed are also important. Each facility should have a log for documenting maintenance and repairs. If any component isnt working properly, report it to your service company immediately to avoid future costly damage. Never try to repair equipment youre not qualified to service.

Any closing thoughts?

Security technology is continually improving but the rudimentary aspects of self-storage security remain the same. No matter the extent or cost of your system, if it isnt installed properly, you may as well not have it at all. So make sure you choose a company that knows self-storage. 

For more information, contact Security Products Unlimited, 877.477.8669; visit

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